21 July 2009

Learning Spanish - "Destinos" Video Program

When I was a lad growing up in Chicago in the 1950's I attended a Catholic grammar school named "Our Lady of Grace School". We learned English grammar and writing from a series of books called "Voyages in English" published by the Lepanto Press. I am pleased to report that Our Lady of Grace is still going strong and Voyages in English is still being published by the people at Loyola Press. Hooray for our side...there are still some nice things that haven't gone away.

I really enjoyed my voyages in English and now I am enjoying my voyage in Spanish. I was joined by a new crew member today. Bliss of the blog "1st Mate" has joined me on this voyage and apropos of her blog title she will be 1st mate on this ship also. We are on a mission to encourage others to study Spanish if they are English speakers and to study English if they are Spanish speakers. The more that we learn to communicate with each other the more understanding there will be, at least in our little corners of the world. Not wanting to be a "Captain Go-and Do" instead of a "Captain Come-on-Let's" I pledge to lead by example and strive to do better and better, every day and in every way. I know that sounds like a mix of "Romper Room" and the positive affirmations of Émile Coué (Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux) but that's the was it is. It is going to be a fun trip and the destination is success...even if it takes a lifetime.

Bliss said to me "There are so many techniques we can use to improve our Spanish, it doesn't have to get boring. Everything from flashcards to newspapers to novelas to getting acquainted with neighbors, vendors at the mercado, the mechanic who works on your car…etc." She is absolutely right. Learning doesn't have to be boring even though learning a language requires a long period of consistent study and practice. It can actually be fun if you mix it up a little and use various sources for input. One of the things she said struck a chord with me. She mentioned "novelas". I remember that back in the last three months of 1998 when I was preparing to move to Mexico there was a program called "Destinos" on public television. I took advantage of that program as much as I could and I remember that not only was it entertaining and enjoyable but it also gave my beginning efforts in Spanish a little boost.

There are fifty two (each) one half hour segments in the program which was created by Bill VanPatten, who was a Professor of Spanish and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Illinois. The program uses a "soap opera" format to immerse students in everyday situations with native speakers and introduces the cultures, accents, and dialects of Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Puerto Rico. It is divided into two parts, Part I programs 1-26, and Part II programs 27-52. You can buy the program on DVD or video cassette. Now, here is the good part...you can also access the program for free on the Destinos website by clicking on this link. All that you need is a good broadband Internet connection. You won't be able to download it but you can watch all of the episodes on streaming video. Just click on the little icons that say "VOD" (video on demand) next to each lesson. The lessons go over vocabulary and pronunciation and there are simple verbal quizzes for review. Believe me, if you have the time, you can't go wrong with this. You will still have to study using your regular methods but this series is like an "apapacho", a nice hug and a squeeze. Speaking of a hug and a squeeze, I even developed quite a fondness for the main character, Raquel, played by Liliana Abud but shhhhhh, please don't tell Gina :)

Oh, and one other thing. We are looking for more members to fill out the crew on our Voyage in Spanish. The only requirements are persistence and determination and a spirit of good will. It brings to my mind the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson from his poem Ulysses:

“Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.”



Rodney said...

The Destinos is an EXCELLENT way to learn Spanish. It's not a telenovela like the classic overdramatic ones you see on TV, but instead a very well put together show that will capture your interest as well as teach you Spanish.

It was written, produced and performed by the university in Champagne, IL, if I'm not mistaken. It's great, a must see.

There are also transcripts, a corresponding textbook and several workbooks available via Amazon or eBay.

Bob Mrotek said...

Thanks for your input. Coming from you that is a great endorsement. I hope that everyone takes a good look at it.

Gracias Mexico said...

I really appreciate all of your Spanish language insights! They are very helpful. Thanks for directing us to these videos, they are great. I am looking forward to being a part of this voyage in improving my Spanish.


Bob Mrotek said...

Welcome aboard Kathleen!

Leslie Harris said...

Bob, you've done it again! One of the first things I tell my students, is to watch TV in English, for atleast 15 minutes a day. It helps them to identify words, questions, situations and conversations that we have already covered in class. It's also very helpful in helping develop the right accent.

Saludos Bob!

Bob Mrotek said...

Back at you Leslie! I think I'll appoint you Navigator on our voyage. Set a course for excellence!

GlorV1 said...

Well Bob, I need say nothing. Your posts are always literate and actually the cat has my tongue right now.:D I hope you have a great Thursday.

Jan said...

Hi Bob: I'm trying very hard to get further along with my Spanish and Bliss suggested I take a look at your blog. It's wonderful. Thanks, it's going to help me!

Unknown said...

Great series lessons are "Destinos" and good luck in the project. No le diré ni una letra a Gina, ni pío pollito.

Bob Mrotek said...

I can't believe that you have run out of words. Takes some more Spirulina. It is working wonders for me :)

Welcome aboard our Voyage in Spanish to the far horizon. Can you cook? The ship needs a cook. If not, how about the crow's nest. We need someone to watch out for pirates :)

Okay, Alfredo. "ni pío pollito"..."not a peep" :)

Amber said...

Neat! I'm watching the first one right now. I'm always looking for more and interesting ways to learn Spanish, as I'm rather shy in person and lose confidence speaking and making mistakes.

Oh, and you can download them - at least the first one has a way. There's a little downward arrow at the far right. If you click it, it gives you the option of saving the file as a Quick Time video.

Amber said...

Even though there's a warning that says not to download. Oops. Forget I said that.

Bob Mrotek said...

Yeah Amber, I can't find the arrow but I sure can see the warning :)

Amber said...

Heh. Never mind. (Maybe it's a Mac thing.)

russi said...

Muchas gracias Bob,
Thanks for Destinos, I love it and I would certainly love to join your pursuit of speaking Spanish to the best of my ability.....and I can cook.

Bob Mrotek said...

Welcome aboard Russi. You are now officially our cook :)

Rodney said...

FYI, they can be downloaded with VLC Media player, and also with QuickTime, I think, although QuickTime will save them in a proprietary format. At least using the free version, that is.

Bob Mrotek said...


Thanks for the tip on the VLC Media Player. I have no interest in downloading Destinos since it works okay as streaming video on the web but VLC solved another problem that I was having. For anyone interested, VLC is a free open source media player that you can download at:


1st Mate said...

Bob - thanks for bringing up Destinos! I had the introduction on my Mac but lost it in a housekeeping frenzy. It looks like an intriguing story and I love that the character travels to other Spanish-speaking countries. I found if I watched it more than once I understood more. Too bad we can't put our Mexican friends on Instant Replay when they start talking fast. I'm sure they wish the same about us.

Bob Mrotek said...


I am going to make you a heartfelt promise. I promise you that if you faithfully follow Destinos to the end and continue with all of your other Spanish learning activities you will no longer have to worry about how fast people seem to talk. They can talk like a machine gun and you will still be able to follow them. I think you are on the cusp of a great breakthrough and what is going to carry you over the top is persistence in determination. You will look back on this "surge" as one of the nicest things that you ever did for yourself. I am very proud of you and I think that you should be proud of yourself too. You are a real leader and I am happy to know you :)

1st Mate said...

Bob - I haven't figured out how to pause a Destinos stream when the phone rings or the rice starts to burn. If you have any tips, let me know, por favor!

Ruth said...

Thanks for the link to Destinos. I have managed to watch the first in the series and cannot wait to find out how the story ends. I am sharing this information with the others in my Spanish class.

Bob Mrotek said...


Just hit the pause button which is the one with parallel vertical lines. Then to start up again you hit the arrow. Don't hit the square button because that is for "stop".

You are very welcome. I am glad that you are enjoying the program :)

Mary Beth said...

Thank you SO MUCH for the link to Destinos! I've only just started to learn Spanish on my own, and am waiting for the materials from Amazon. In the meantime, I've been trying to watch soap operas and news on television, but it's hard to follow. Destinos is wonderful -- not only is there a story to follow (with closed captioning, if I want to see the words, too), but the practice lessons that go with each episode are fun. I would never have found this on my own, but it was just what I was looking for!

Bob Mrotek said...

You are very welcome Mary Beth. Don't worry. If you faithfully go through Destinos and learn the sentence patterns and vocabulary you will be well on your way to pleasant voyages in Spanish. Besides that, it is a very nice story :)

Gail Marion said...

well Im joining you all now. Maybe some one new people will come. I have lived in GTO. Are you still in Mexico?

Bob Mrotek said...

Yes Gail. I'm still here, gracias a Dios :)

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.